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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, December 01, 2022
Temporary Men's Shelter at First Street, operated by Porchlight, Inc.

Man shot at near-east temporary housing shelter, investigation ongoing

The Madison Police Department responded to a shooting at a temporary housing shelter on First Street and Johnson which left one man hospitalized Monday evening.  

MPD released an incident report that named Ronald E. Stephens as the prime suspect, charging him with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. The other suspect was taken into custody by MPD but has since been released after it was determined that they were not involved in the incident.

Information on the victim’s status is not available at this time.

Madison police officers were close to the shelter located on First Street and Johnson and were responding to an unrelated medical call before hearing gunshots from inside the shelter, according to a WKOW report

Upon entering the building, the officers confronted two suspects and one of the officers discharged their firearm during the exchange. One of the suspects has been hospitalized for gunshot wounds, however, Police Chief Shon Barnes has stated that these injuries were inflicted prior to the MPD’s response.  

Mayor Rhodes-Conway released a statement expressing gratitude that the MPD was able to respond so quickly to the situation and alluded to the possibility that the incident could have been “much worse,” referencing a mass shooting event that took place the same day in Boulder, Colorado.

"We usually have about 100 guests and staff at the men's shelter. We are all aware that there was a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado the very same day,” the statement reads. “I am grateful that this incident was contained quickly and that, beyond the two individuals involved, none of the guests or staff at the shelter or our responding officers were seriously injured.”

Rhodes-Conway also urged that Madison residents refrain from associating the incident with the homeless community broadly and also pledged to review future security procedures for Madison shelters.

“I also ask that people resist the urge to use this isolated incident to equate homelessness with criminality,” Rhodes-Conway stated. “We will be sitting down with our partners to review shelter safety and security procedures both at this temporary site, and for use in planning for the permanent shelter.”

Porchlight, a local non-profit that operates the shelter where the shooting took place, offered similar sentiments to Rhodes-Conway, thanking officers for responding quickly and promising to increase security measures in the future.

“The entire Porchlight family offers our thoughts, prayers, and support to the victim and his family, our staff, guests, and the first responders who bravely answered the call and responded to this situation,” Porchlight said in a public statement. “Going forward, we will be offering on-site mental health counseling to guests while increasing security measures.”

The incident report released by the MPD states that, per state law, the conduct of the responding officers is being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to determine if first responders were justified in their use of force.

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Campus Reactions

A little over three hours after the shooting, three volunteers, including Anthony Flynn and UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition co-founder Tarah Stangler, arrived at the First Street building. 

According to Stangler, she and the other volunteers were there to distribute food, water, blankets and medical equipment. They were also prepared to help people cope after witnessing a traumatic event. 

At one point, a man approached the volunteers through a fence due to concerns about his asthma. 

Stangler said that they gave the man an inhaler and tried to help him through the fence, but the MPD refused them to access the man. According to Stangler, it wasn’t clear why.  

The man then collapsed as the volunteer held him up through the fence, Flynn said. Eventually, they were allowed through and an ambulance was called. The man did stop breathing at one point, which then one of the volunteers administered compressions and was at “risk for death,” Flynn described. 

MPD Spokesperson Tyler Grigg provided a description of events that broadly matches the description given by the volunteers, however, Grigg does not acknowledge that officers prevented the man from receiving aid.  

“During the investigation, officers were alerted to a person suffering from a medical event,” Grigg told the Cardinal. “The Madison Fire Department was called to assist as officers rendered aid. Officers attended to and helped assist the individual to receive further medical attention.”

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